Charles (aka “SeaBe”) Banks performance was also a JP book launch for his SeaBe: My First Poetry Book, Inner Child Press (2014). Bravo, Charles! Your poems not only capture the contemporary urban voice, but readers will hear your deep basso reading voice as they enjoy this wonderful chapbook.
He led off with a new poem “Life Crosses a Dangerous Road,” where “time heals, but it also kills.” Then he asked the audience to choose fromfour categories: Love, Fun, Social Ills, or Death. The audience chose Fun.
The response was an hilarious ode to fast food, “Burgers and Fries,” from his chapbook: “I’ll be Burger King’s Queen / just slip me … some onion rings.” And what will it take to make his girl “squeal / call me her Big Daddy”? (Hint: something from McDonald’s that rhymes with “squeal” and is said to be “happy”) After large applause, the audience again chose Fun.
Banks treated us to “Happy Belated Goose Day.” No, really, he assured us Goose Day is September 30th. Well, who knew? “I goose on Facebook. / Pokes are not polite.” He’s a fine comic, and the audience really gave it up for him. Then someone called for Social Ills.
He dressed us in “DeaD- Man’s Clothes,” lost among the hopeless homeless, stressing the “Heavy deaDness / No place to be living …” in a jazz poem worthy of comparison with some of Langston Hughes’. Banks named Hughes as one of his poetry mentors. Listen: “Livin’ in Dead Man sleeves / Strapped up belief / Lifeless Belt pulled tight …” Can you hear a bit of Hughes? The audience next chose Love.
Another new poem, “Rare Love,” manifested passion as “a hunger for another / rarely goes away.” Hear it and fall in love all over again. Next, the audience picked Social Ills.
“Way Ward BounD” is a kind of love poem to the homeless: “I live on the Edge the cut the corner the curb ….. where stePPs serve as … / Tables and Chairs,” and other images, especially hunger, that make homelessness too painful to ignore. By now you've noticed Banks’ eccentric capitalization and punctuation, reminiscent of Russell Atkins, Bob McDonough’s Cleveland composer/poet friend Bob presented to our group last year. Then the audience opted for Fun.
“PUMPkin BuTT pie Sweet Potatoe Bootie” gave a recipe that came with “a warning / readings / careful if you taste it it cums alive / it’s attracted to BiGG Ole BUTTS / and yours is the right size …..” It's a Thanksgiving poem from hell, that could have come from Rice, Gorey, or Poe but is Banks’ own little demonic piece. It is also included in SeaBe, the chapbook.
SeaBe closed with a new Love poem. In “Poets,” who “travel light,” he credits Leonard Cohen and Billie Holliday for that concept, citing poets “with their watchful eyes, leaking hearts …”
Given Banks’ theatrical delivery and honest words, don’t hesitate to buy his book, to attend his readings, or to regard him as an emerging poet among contemporary greats. To a relatively new JP member, “Welcome Charles, and keep ‘em cOMinG!”